We continue our Experts in Patient Access series with Will Gordon, MD. Will joined Kyruus in June of 2014 and is currently the Director of Product Management. In this role, he oversees the Kyruus suite of clinical products and manages the data applications, including the ProviderMatch API. Will is also an internist and attending physician on staff at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he completed his clinical training in Internal Medicine. He has a background in software development, and worked at Avatar New York and Careplace prior to his medical training. Will received his BA in History from Cornell University, and his MD from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.
Tell us about your background and how you got connected to Patient Access.
I am a physician and a technologist. Before medical school I worked in software development, and during medical school and training I stayed active in health information technology through various projects and research. I’ve been aware of Patient Access my entire life, having grown up in New York. Manhattan has an interesting Patient Access problem in that there are a lot of doctors who don’t accept insurance, so if you’re privately insured you may have to endure long appointment wait times or venture out of Manhattan to find a doctor. New York City has a high non-insured population as well.
In medical school, we had a free clinic that the students ran every week and I was on the executive board and managed analytics and quality. The purpose of the free clinic was to offer care to those who were not otherwise able to access it in NYC. I was impressed with how busy it was - you wouldn’t think people would want care from medical students (of course all patients were seen by an attending physician as well).
For my clinical training I moved to Massachusetts, which has some of the best access to health insurance of any state. But there are still Patient Access challenges. Once I started practicing, I saw that patients tend to bounce around from doctor to doctor, looking for the right one. Physicians learn to identify the one name for each specialty to send their referrals. For heart problems, I have this one cardiologist that I know because we trained together, etc. There are so many specialists but no good way of knowing what each of them does. So you build this personal network of physicians, and referral patterns become heavily ingrained as habit.
What compelled you to join Kyruus?
A couple reasons. Kyruus addresses a problem that everyone in medicine recognizes but few are trying to solve. I also appreciate the way Kyruus uses data and novel techniques from other industries. Finally, the team - our co-founders are truly visionary and they have the drive and ability to make Kyruus successful.
You have deep expertise in delivering care to patients, but is there anything you’ve learned about our customers from your work at Kyruus?
Before joining Kyruus, I had no appreciation for solving Patient Access problems on a broad scale. In my product work here, I’ve been in conversations with dozens of health systems. There are commonalities in their problems, but they each approach them in a unique way. So I’ve learned about the unique needs of each and how to build a technology product that serves those unique needs but still drives value and success across the broader healthcare environment.
Why has healthcare been historically slow to adopt new technology?
It clearly lags behind other sectors and some of the recent energy behind IT adoption had to be legislated and financially incentivized. At a fundamental level, healthcare is about taking care of patients and you don’t need a computer to do that. Anytime that you suggest technology as a way to improve healthcare, the threshold is higher to demonstrate it’s really necessary.
Sometimes that’s good in that it introduces a healthy caution. Take pagers, for example. They are obviously behind in terms of mobile technology - there’s a 160 character limit, it only beeps, it’s big, etc. But it’s highly functional, secure, and reliable. A lot of people are trying to improve secure messaging in hospitals, but the bar is higher in ensuring it meets the same security and reliability standards that have been set by the pager while also introducing new value.
The flip side is that we’re slower to adapt to new technology that may be beneficial. The onus is then on health IT companies to demonstrate value.
What excites you about the future of Patient Access?
Consumerism - this notion that healthcare providers are walled off and that patients have to go through multiple channels to get an appointment will be a thing of a past. Consumers will much more directly engage with providers, access their own data, access their labs, etc.
Transparency is another exciting thing. Both patients and providers will have more and more access to data around procedural volumes, clinical quality outcomes, etc. We still have a ways to go to figure out how to show that data in a meaningful way, but ultimately this will only help patients receive the best possible care.
What do you love most about your jobs?
I love working with the engineering team at Kyruus. I enjoy writing product stories with them and getting their opinion on how to solve problems. I also enjoy working with our commercial delivery team. Many of them come from healthcare backgrounds and they tend to be some of the most discerning partners for the Product Team. I also enjoy releasing features - building products, getting them out in front of customers, seeing usage, and then rapidly iterating, continuing to improve and enhance our technology.